Lawrence M. Walsh
The Solarize Chicagoland group buy program is gaining momentum as it surpassed its second goal when the 22nd homeowner signed on to go solar.
Since then the program has grown to include 24 properties, with more contracts being signed every week.
Offered for the first time to Chicago area property owners, Cook, DuPage, Kane, and Will counties have partnered with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the Citizens Utility Board to support the bulk solar group purchase program for residents and businesses located across all four counties.
“This program is a big benefit for our residents,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh. “They have an opportunity to install solar energy at a reduced rate with the possibility of still more reductions if enough property owners sign up.”
This grassroots program combines volume purchasing with community education to make solar more accessible and affordable for area property owners.
Thanks to Christopher Gotschall, of Evanston, Emmy Lou John, of Aurora, and other Solarize Chicagoland participants, the program’s pricing has been lowered below its already lower-than-market rate, helping put the program past its second benchmark.
“We try to source our energy from renewable and sustainable sources as much as possible to combat climate change, and for years have wanted to install solar panels but it was never affordable,” said Gotschall. Through Solarize Chicagoland Gotschall learned about the “incentives available and the benefits of installing now instead of waiting. It’s something we can finally afford.”
“As retirees on a fixed income, we are glad to know our electric bills will decrease,” said John, another participant. “At the same time, and more importantly to my husband and I, we think using solar is a hopeful action and shows the importance we place on caring for creation.”
Pricing will continue to decrease when the group collectively reaches three additional benchmarks.
Solarize Chicagoland started Solar Power Hour informational sessions in late April. During these free, hour-long presentations, Solarize Chicagoland representatives give a brief explanation of the program, discuss the projected costs of installing solar and highlight the benefits.
Presentations are scheduled at various locations around the Chicago area through Sept. 10; all are free and open to the public. Interested property owners have until Sept. 30 to decide whether to participate.
Upcoming Solar Power Hours are scheduled in Will County at:
- 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, White Oak Library District, Lockport branch, 121 E. Eighth St., Lockport;
- 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, Peotone Public Library, 515 N. First St., Peotone;
- 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, Mokena Public Library, 11327 195th St., Mokena;
- 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, Village of Frankfort Hall, 432 W. Nebraska St., Frankfort.
A complete schedule of the Solar Power Hours can be found at SolarizeChicagoland.com.
“We’re trying to simplify the process of going solar,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Director for the MREA. “It can seem complicated, so we present clear information and answer folks’ questions at our Solar Power Hours, and then they can determine for themselves whether solar is right for them.”
Solarize Chicagoland’s advisory committee, comprised of sustainability staff from Cook, DuPage, Kane and Will counties, reviewed a competitive request for proposals issued by the MREA, and selected a single installer, GRNE Solar, to help carry out the program.
This ensures customers get the simplicity of a single installer and the confidence that the selection was made from a number of competitive choices.
Gotschall echoed the sentiment. “Having Solarize Chicagoland vet suppliers was huge — I didn’t have to spend hours researching and comparing. They did all that work for me and negotiated the best prices.”
Visit the website SolarizeChicagoland.com to learn more about the program.